International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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96 Cold war urbanism: strategic plans, secure structures and technocratic politics (2)
Convenor(s) Richard Brook (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
Martin Dodge (The University of Manchester, UK)
Chair(s) Martin Dodge (The University of Manchester, UK)
Timetable Thursday 09 July 2015, Timeslot 2 (11:30 - 13:15)
Room RGS-IBG Council Room
Session abstract In this session we wish to explore how the threat of nuclear war in the 1950s and ‘60s affected planning at a range of geographic scales. National and international telecommunications networks were built during this time as a direct response to global political conditions. The rise of atomic power and computational technologies required new facilities that were often dispersed and situated variously for secrecy and locally available expertise/experience. The zoning of land and organisation of facilities and the planning towns is not conventionally viewed as informed by processes of the ‘warfare state’ (Edgerton, 2005), but we want to ask; What were the patterns of the built environment, economic structures and aesthetics / cultures of Cold War urbanism in Britain? As Boyd and Linehan (2013) state in the introduction to their recent book Ordnance: War + Architecture & Space, we needed to be alert to ‘escalation in the intersections between the fabric of the landscape and the technologies of war and the extrusion and mutation of war from the battlefield into everyday life’. The papers draw on a range of different evidential bases, archival research, personal histories and lived experiences and theoretical ideas to understand the spatiality of technological development, primarily focused upon city scales and architectural resultants.
Linked Sessions Cold war urbanism: strategic plans, secure structures and technocratic politics (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
The Warsaw Metro and the Warsaw Pact: from deep tunnels to cut and cover
Alex Lawrey (Independent Scholar / Town Planner)
This paper examines the development of Warsaw’s metro system as an example of Cold War (underground) urbanism, and as a representative of nationalist aspirations that became emblematic of its political epochs. The Metro idea was first raised after Poland gained independence in 1918 and taken onboard by mayor Stefab Starzynski in the 1930s. After the war a new phase in the metro’s history began with the idea of creating a deep underground railway system which could double up as shelter in the event of nuclear war. Beyond digging less than kilometer of track this Stalinist project never got beyond the conception stage, instead Varsovians received Stalin’s ‘gift’ of the Palace of Science and Culture which still dominates Warsaw’s central skyline. After the destruction of the Solidarity movement another Soviet inspired ‘gift’ arrived in the form of a resurrected metro including trains that arrived shortly before communism fell in Poland and later Russia itself. The project continued, later with EU funding, finally opening in 1995. Warsaw’s metro is symbolic of many stages of the Cold War and of the world created after its end.
Forming an everyday Cold War network: The constitutive role of law, surveying and asset management in the birth, life and death of Royal Observer Corps
Luke Bennett (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Sarah Cardwell (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
Born in the wartime exigencies of countering Zeppelin and Gotha Bomber raids towards the end of the First World War, the Royal Observer Corps and its distributed network of observation posts grew to become an iconic part of 1939-45 homeland security across the UK. Then, during the Cold War, the ROC's network of people and land-sites was re-purposed for the observation of atomic bomb blasts and radioactive fallout clouds. This paper will examine the constitutive role of (mundane, vanilla flavour) property law in the creation and management of the ROC's national network of 1,500 Cold War monitoring posts. For the duration of the Cold War, this network of small underground posts spread out across fields and hilltops, was mostly held in existence via simple land conveyances. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent disbanding of the ROC in 1991 prompted the sale of these redundant posts, transferring them to ambivalent farmers, opportunistic telecoms providers and latterly bunker-loving enthusiasts. This disposal process ‘privatised’, multiplied and diversified the actors engaged in the abandonment, decommissioning and alternative use-making for these now de-networked structures.
The anticipatory space of the bunker, modernity’s dark mirror
Gary A. Boyd (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)
Denis Linehan (University College Cork, Ireland)
The buried and semi-buried bunker, bulwark since the early eighteenth century against increasingly sophisticated forms of ordnance, emerged in increasing number in Europe throughout the twentieth century across a series of scales from the household Anderson shelter to the vast infrastructural works of the Maginot and Siegfried lines, or the Atlantic Wall. Its latest proliferation took place during the Cold War. From these perspectives, it is as emblematic of modernity as the department store, the great exhibition, the skyscraper or the machine-inspired domestic space advocated by Le Corbusier. It also represents the obverse, or perhaps a parodic iteration, of the preoccupations of early architectural modernism: a vast underground international style, cast in millions of tons of thick, reinforced concrete retaining walls, whose spatial relationship to the landscape above was strictly mediated through the periscope, the loop-hole, the range finder and the strategic necessity to both resist and facilitate the technologies and scopic regimes of weaponry. Embarking from Bunker Archaeology, this paper critically uncoils Paul Virillo’s observation, that once physically eclipsed in its topographical and technical settings, the bunker’s efficacy would mutate to other domains, retaining and remaking its meaning in another topology during the Cold War. ‘The essence of the new fortress’ he writes ‘is elsewhere, underfoot, invisible from here on in’. Shaped by this impulse, this paper seeks to render visible the bunker’s significance in a wider milieu and, in doing so, excavate some of the relationships between the physical artefact, its implications and its enduring metaphorical and perceptual ghosts.
Richard Brook (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)